Marina Cay, British Virgin Islands
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Marina Cay, British Virgin Islands

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British Virgin Islands Travel Guide

Key Facts
Area

153 sq km (59 sq miles).

Population

30,659 (UN estimate 2016).

Population density

218.7 per sq km.

Capital

Road Town, Tortola.

Government

British Overseas Territory.

Head of state

HM Queen Elizabeth II since 1952, represented locally by Governor John Rankin since 2021.

Head of government

Premier Andrew Fahie since 2019.

Electricity

110 volts AC, 60Hz. North American-style plugs with two flat pins (with or without a third grounding pin) are used; some sockets may not accept plugs with a third pin however.

Sloping hills of green, lush mountainous terrain, extensive coral reefs and famous shipwrecks sum up the thrills and spills of the British Virgin Islands. With myriad nautical pursuits on offer, the 50 idyllic islands are a slice of paradise.

Norman Island was supposedly the location that Robert Louis Stevenson based Treasure Island on. Today's visitors might not stumble across swashbuckling pirates or half-concealed treasure troves, but they will find a highly prized booty of soft sand and gentle, teal waters. For travellers who prefer to watch the sea rather than get into it, there is the breathtaking chance of spotting dolphins and whales criss-crossing the surface.

Throughout much of their history, the string of islands and cays were sleepy and unnoticed. Today, colossal cruise ships glide to a halt in the shadow of Road Town on Tortola, the largest of the islands. Smaller ships also take in Virgin Gorda, the second biggest island, docking outside the curiously named Spanish Town. Hardly qualifying as a town, the latter has a few shops and a pretty marina, and is quiet, picturesque settlement. Road Town offers a little more action, with a gleaming harbour and waterfront, as well plenty of pastel-coloured West Indian architecture. Sir Olva Georges Square is a pleasant spot to take a seat and admire the views.

Although the tourism industry is booming here, you can easily get away from it all. Much of the accommodation beyond Road Town offers utter tranquility, while some of the hotels elsewhere in the territory pretty much have islands to themselves.

Paradise does come at a cost. Overall, the British Virgin Islands are quite an expensive destination. But, for some, this is the necessary price of saving a Caribbean gem from over-commercialisation. And if that's the intention, the British Virgin Islands are, for now, a resounding success.

Travel Advice

Coronavirus travel health

Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for the British Virgin Islands on the TravelHealthPro website.

See the TravelHealthPro website for further advice on travel abroad and reducing spread of respiratory viruses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

International travel

There are limited commercial flights to and from the BVI. Check with your travel company for the latest information.

Entry and borders

See Entry requirements to find out what you will need to do prior to and when you arrive in the BVI.

Returning to the UK

When you return, you must follow the rules for entering the UK.

You are responsible for organising your own COVID-19 test, in line with UK government testing requirements. You should contact the Public Health Division on +1 284 468 2274 or the Medical Hotline on +1 284 852 7650 for information on testing facilities.

Be prepared for your plans to change

No travel is risk-free during COVID. Countries may further restrict travel or bring in new rules at short notice, for example due to a new COVID-19 variant. Check with your travel company or airline for any transport changes which may delay your journey home.

If you test positive for COVID-19, you may need to stay where you are until you test negative. You may also need to seek treatment there.

Plan ahead and make sure you:

  • can access money
  • understand what your insurance will cover
  • can make arrangements to extend your stay and be away for longer than planned

Travel in the British Virgin Islands

Domestic air travel services between Tortola, Virgin Gorda and Anegada are allowed to operate in accordance with existing protocols.

Regular ferry services between Tortola and its sister islands of Virgin Gorda, Jost Van Dyke and Anegada are operating. Ferries are allowed to operate with up to 65 people at a time. Commercial ferries to and from the US Virgin Islands are operating on a restricted schedule of three return journeys per day.

Freight couriers and charter companies are permitted to operate between the BVI and USVI subject to strict adherence to the established COVID-19 suppression measures and fortnightly.

From 01 November, foreign-based charter companies must obtain authorisation to operate in BVI’s territorial waters.

Cruise passengers

Fully vaccinated passengers with a negative RT-PCR COVID-19 test or a negative rapid antigen test are permitted to move freely throughout the Territory, subject to adhering to the relevant COVID-19 protocols in the Territory.

Further information on the BVI restrictions can be found at the website of the Government of the Virgin Islands, including any restrictions in place both within the Territory and in the BVI’s territorial waters.

Public spaces and services

When moving around the BVI, you should wear a face covering in all public settings. Premises will only allow entry if you are wearing a face mask. Event organisers are required to ensure there is no more than one person per nine square feet at events, unless otherwise approved by the Ministry of Health and Social Development.

Nightclubs are open to fully vaccinated and partially vaccinated individuals. You will need to provide proof of your vaccination status on entry. Partially vaccinated individuals will also need to provide proof of a negative rapid COVID-19 test taken within the last 7 days.

Beaches are open.

Healthcare in the British Virgin Islands

Information on risks to travellers, avoidance measures, symptoms and how to self-quarantine is available on the BVI Ministry of Health and Social Development website.

You should make sure that your travel insurance covers medical repatriation, quarantine accommodation costs, and COVID-19 medical costs in the event you contract COVID-19 during your stay in the BVI.

If your stay needs to be extended due to coronavirus related restrictions, a UK prescription will be honoured by local pharmacies provided the prescribed medicine is available in the BVI.

Your emotional and mental wellbeing is important. Read guidance on how to look after your mental wellbeing and mental health.

View Health for further details on healthcare in BVI.

See also the guidance on healthcare if you’re waiting to return to the UK.

COVID-19 vaccines if you live in the British Virgin Islands

The UK Government has been supplying vaccines to the people of the UK’s Overseas Territories. The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is the UK authority responsible for assessing the safety, quality and efficacy of vaccines. MHRA has temporarily authorised under Regulation 174 of Human Medicines Regulations 2012, the Astra Zeneca COVID-19 vaccine for supply in the UK, Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories for use in the British Virgin Islands. Further information on the vaccine programme in the British Virgin Islands can be found at https://gov.vg/covid-19.

Finance

For information on financial support you can access whilst abroad, visit our financial assistance guidance.

Further information

If you need urgent assistance, see Emergency assistance.

Crime

Levels of crime in the British Virgin Islands are relatively low, although serious incidents do occur including armed robbery and drug-related gun crime. While most visits to the BVI are trouble-free, you should take sensible precautions to protect your personal safety and belongings - at least to the same level as you would at home, including:

  • be vigilant and carry a mobile phone with roaming capability;
  • avoid walking alone in isolated areas including beaches, particularly after dark;
  • don’t carry large amounts of cash or jewellery and use a hotel safe if possible;
  • never leave anything valuable unattended, especially when on the beach;
  • don’t offer resistance to an armed robber.

Take particular care of your passport, as it can’t be renewed or replaced in the BVI.

Always follow the advice of the local authorities. If you need help contact the police on 999/911 (emergencies) and 311 (non-emergencies).

Road travel

You can drive for up to 30 days on a UK licence and then must apply for a local one at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Cars are left-hand drive, and vehicles drive on the left as in the UK.

Take great care when driving, particularly on the mountain roads.

Standard taxi fares exist for most destinations, but it is sensible to clarify the fare with the driver beforehand.

Sea travel

Many visitors to the BVI take part in water sports. The rate of accidents is very low, but they do occur. Many accidents involve the consumption of alcohol. Fear and dehydration exaggerate the effects of alcohol, so take care if you have been drinking.

Virgin Islands Search and Rescue (VISAR) respond to emergencies at sea. VISAR can be contacted by sending a distress call on VHF Channel 16, or dialling 767 (SOS), +1 284 499 0911 (emergency) or +1 284 345 4357 (office).

Emergency assistance

As the BVI is a British Overseas Territory, there is no formal British diplomatic or consular representation. The local authorities deal with all requests for emergency assistance.

For medical assistance and other services, call:

  • Peebles Hospital on Tortola: +1 284 852 7500 or +1 284 394 3497

  • Peebles Hospital Disaster Centre: +1 284 852 7525

  • BVI Red Cross: +1 284 547 4047

  • BVI Department of Disaster Management (DDM): +1 284 468 4200 / bviddm@surfbvi.com

  • VHF Channel – 16

Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in the BVI, attacks can’t be ruled out.

UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out more about the global threat from terrorism.

There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.

The BVI is a separate legal jurisdiction to the United Kingdom and has its own laws.

Don’t get involved with illegal drugs, including marijuana. Possession of even small quantities can lead to large fines or imprisonment. Drug trafficking is a serious offence. Pack your own luggage yourself and don’t carry items that do not belong to you.

Observe customs regulations on the import and export of agricultural products and the protection of marine and animal life. There are a number of marine and animal specimens that may not be taken from the island. If in doubt, check with the local customs authorities or the Government’s Chief Conservation & Fisheries Officer before buying or attempting to import or export such items.

A grounded vessel that has sustained “material damage affecting her seaworthiness or efficiency”, must notify the Virgin Islands Shipping Registry within 24 hours of the accident.

Spear fishing isn’t permitted in the BVI. The use of scuba equipment, explosive, poison or other noxious substance to capture or remove any marine animal or coral is against the law (this includes dead coral and shells). Fishing within the boundaries of any marine park is strictly forbidden. Commercial, sport and pleasure fishing requires a fishing license and the boat you are fishing from must be registered. You can get a temporary permit from the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries:

Department Of Agriculture And Fisheries

Paraquita Bay,

Tortola, Virgin Islands (British) VG1120

Business Hours:

General Office - Paraquita Bay and Virgin Gorda - 8:30am to 4:30pm

Abattoir - 7am to 3pm

Airport - 7am to 10pm

Email Address: agriculturebvi@gov.vg, fisheries@gov.vg

General Office (Paraquita Bay) - 1(284) 468-6123/6124

Veterinary Unit - 1 (284) 468 - 6197

Virgin Gorda Office - 1(284) 468-6506/6507

Airport Office - 1(284) 468-6449

Homosexuality is legal under BVI law. There’s no provision for marriage or civil partnerships between same-sex couples. Attitudes in the main tourist destinations are tolerant. Throughout BVI, hotels and resorts are generally welcoming regardless of sexual orientation. Outside the tourist areas local attitudes can be conservative and some people may not approve of public displays of affection between same-sex couples. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.

This page reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British Citizen’ passport, for the most common types of travel.

The authorities in the British Virgin Islands set and enforce entry rules. For further information contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to. You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.

Entry rules in response to coronavirus (COVID-19)

Entry to the British Virgin Islands

Entry by air to the Territory is only permitted through the T B Lettsome International Airport.

Travellers who have been fully vaccinated, with the second dose of a World Health Organization approved vaccine administered at least 14 days before travel, can also enter the BVI by sea through the Road Town Jetty; Soper’s Hole Dock, West End; Great Harbour, Jost Van Dyke; or Spanish Town, Virgin Gorda.

Partially vaccinated travellers (those that have received one dose of a two-dose vaccine, or whose second vaccine dose was administered less than two weeks before arriving in the Territory) and unvaccinated travellers are only permitted to enter the BVI through the Road Town Jetty and the T B Lettsome International Airport.

Everyone (including children) entering the Territory will be subject to temperature checks and testing on arrival.

Testing and quarantine requirements

Fully vaccinated adults and unaccompanied children must:

  • pre-register for a rapid antigen test using the Hummingbird portal for your point of entry:

  • show proof of a negative RT-PCR COVID-19 test or a negative rapid antigen test taken within 48 hours prior to arrival. The type of test taken should be guided by the entry requirements of any country transited en route to the BVI
  • show proof of vaccination status
  • show proof of travel insurance with minimum approved coverage for quarantine accommodation costs, medical repatriation and COVID-19 medical costs, including hospitalisation, doctor’s visits and prescriptions
  • if for any reason proof of a negative test is not available, take a rapid COVID-19 test upon arrival at a cost of $50 and receive a negative result

Partially vaccinated and unvaccinated adults and unaccompanied children must:

  • register for a BVI Gateway Traveller Authorisation Certificate at a cost of $175.00
  • show proof of a negative RT-PCR COVID-19 test taken 3 to 5 days prior to arrival. Partially vaccinated travellers will also need to show proof of their vaccination status
  • take a RT-PCR COVID-19 test upon arrival
  • show proof of travel insurance with minimum approved coverage for quarantine accommodation costs, medical repatriation and COVID-19 medical costs, including hospitalisation, doctor’s visits and prescriptions
  • quarantine for four days (partially vaccinated travellers) or seven days (unvaccinated travellers)
  • take a RT-PCR COVID-19 test on day 4 (partially vaccinated travellers) or day 7 (unvaccinated travellers). Travellers will be able to end their quarantine if they receive a negative test result
  • obtain approval from the Environmental Health Division if quarantining in a private residence, hotel or vessel

For information on testing and quarantine requirements for accompanied children, see below.

Where people are travelling in mixed groups, unvaccinated and partially vaccinated individuals will need to quarantine upon arrival whilst vaccinated individuals in the group will not be subject to quarantine measures providing they test negative on arrival.

Testing and quarantine requirements for accompanied children

Children aged 5 to 17 are required to follow the same testing and quarantine requirements as their parents/guardians. See Testing and quarantine requirements.

Children aged 4 and below must follow the same quarantine requirements as their parents/guardians but there are no testing requirements.

Further information can be found at the website of the Government of the Virgin Islands

Demonstrating your COVID-19 status

The British Virgin Islands will accept the UK’s proof of COVID-19 recovery and vaccination record. Your NHS appointment card from vaccination centres is not designed to be used as proof of vaccination and should not be used to demonstrate your vaccine status.

Regular entry requirements

Visas

British nationals don’t need a visa to visit the BVI. It’s normal practice for BVI immigration authorities to issue you with a one-month entry stamp on arrival. You may also be granted an extension for one further month. Extensions for up to 6 months are granted on the discretion of the Chief Immigration Officer provided that the individual can show proof of independent financial means. You may need to provide evidence of accommodation and your plans to leave the BVI at the end of your stay.

Travellers who hold an expired work permit and are re-entering the BVI must submit a written request to the Immigration Department at least 5 working days prior to travel. This also applies to holders of valid work permit exemptions.

For all other immigration and labour matters, including work permits, contact the BVI authorities:

Immigration Department

Chief Immigration Officer

Government Offices

Road Town

Tortola

BVI

Telephone: 001 284 494-3471 or 001 284 468-3701 extension 4700/4770

Fax: 001 284 494-4399

Labour Department

Geneva Place

Road Town

Tortola

BVI

Telephone: 001 284 468 3701 extension 4708-4713 or 001 284 494 3451

Fax: 001 284 494 3027

Passport validity

You must hold a valid passport to enter the BVI. Your passport should be valid for the proposed duration of your stay.

UK Emergency Travel Documents

UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are accepted for entry, transit and exit from the BVI.

If you’re travelling via the USA on an ETD, you will need to get a valid US visa.

As the BVI is a British Overseas Territory, there is no formal British diplomatic or consular representation. UK ETDs are processed by the British High Commission in Barbados.

Departure tax

There is a US$50 tax for all passengers, payable on leaving the BVI by air ($15 departure tax, $5 security charge departure tax and a US$30 airport development fee). This is generally included in the ticket price. If you’re departing the BVI by ferry, a departure tax of US$20 per person or US$15 for residents is payable.

Visitors arriving by air or sea are also charged an Environmental and Tourism levy of US$10 on arrival.

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for the British Virgin Islands on the TravelHealthPro website.

See the healthcare information in the Coronavirus section for information on what to do if you think you have coronavirus while in the British Virgin Islands.

At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the latest health advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website. Each overseas territory page has information on vaccine recommendations, any current health risks or outbreaks, and factsheets with information on staying healthy abroad. Guidance is also available from NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website.

General information on travel vaccinations and a travel health checklist is available on the NHS website. You may then wish to contact your health adviser or pharmacy for advice on other preventive measures and managing any pre-existing medical conditions while you’re abroad.

The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or purchased in the UK can be different in overseas territories. If you’re travelling with prescription or over-the-counter medicine, read this guidance from NaTHNaC on best practice when travelling with medicines. For further information on the legal status of a specific medicine, you’ll need to contact the local territory government.

While travel can be enjoyable, it can sometimes be challenging. There are clear links between mental and physical health, so looking after yourself during travel and when abroad is important. Information on travelling with mental health conditions is available in our guidance page. Further information is also available from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC).

There is only one hospital in the BVI and medical facilities are limited. Complex medical problems are frequently referred to hospitals in the US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, or mainland USA. The US visa waiver scheme does not apply to one-off charter flights. Special arrangements have to be made for any non-US visa holder who is medically evacuated by charter flight. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.

UK health authorities have classified the BVI as having a risk of Zika virus transmission. For more information and advice, visit the website of the National Travel Health Network and Centre website.

Cases of Chikungunya virus have been confirmed in BVI and the number of reported cases in the region is increasing. You should take steps to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.

The BVI Environmental Health Division is continuing its mosquito vector control activities as the risk of Dengue is present.

There is no hyperbaric chamber in the BVI. Patients needing treatment for decompression illness are transferred to the US Virgin Islands. More sensitive medical cases are transferred to San Juan, Puerto Rico.

If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 999 or 911 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.

The hurricane season in the Caribbean normally runs from June to November, but can occur any time of the year.

You should monitor weather updates from the US National Hurricane Centre and the BVI Department of Disaster Management, and follow the advice of the local authorities. Visitors should download the DDM alert app from the App or Play Store.

See our Tropical Cyclones for advice about how to prepare effectively and what to do if you’re likely to be affected by a hurricane or tropical cyclone.

If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) in London on 020 7008 500 (24 hours).

Foreign travel checklist

Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.

Travel safety

The FCDO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.

When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCDO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.

Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.

Refunds and cancellations

If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.

For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Registering your travel details with us

We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.

Previous versions of FCDO travel advice

If you’re looking for a previous version of the FCDO travel advice, visit the National Archives website. Versions prior to 2 September 2020 will be archived as FCO travel advice. If you can’t find the page you’re looking for there, send the Travel Advice Team a request.

Further help

If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.

Visa and passport information is updated regularly and is correct at the time of publishing. You should verify critical travel information independently with the relevant embassy before you travel.